Last Sunday I hauled my Jambo pit to Austin. The first stop was John Lewis' house. Both Lewis and I had been invited to a backyard BBQ with John Mueller the next day.
John Lewis is a pitmaster (I call him The BBQ Genius, food critics call him the BBQ savant) who works at Franklin BBQ in Austin for Aaron Franklin. Franklin's has been named the best BBQ joint in America. That also means best in the world, says John Mueller, because no place else cooks real BBQ except Texas.
I help John Lewis on national KCBS BBQ competitions. John's cook team is named Porky's Revenge, and includes his fiancé Maureen Williams, Daniel Rugg Webb & Raymond Carreon. In its short time competing, Porky's Revenge has attracted the attention of top competitors like Tuffy Stone and Jamie Geer, the Jambo pit builder. Stone and Geer were featured in the first season of TV's BBQ Pitmasters along with Myron Mixon, Johhny Trigg and others. Later this month, John and I are competing at the upcoming 2012 Academy of Country Music and Mandalay Bay BBQ Throw-down competition in Las Vegas, NV.
John Mueller, who learned how to cook from his father, Bobby, of the legendary Taylor barbecue family, runs JMueller BBQ in Austin. He was intrigued by Lewis' competition BBQ skills and hinted at joining us at an event.
Early Monday morning with our pits in tow we headed over to Mueller's joint, which was closed for the day. Mueller had already fired his pit and loaded a couple of briskets and a bunch of beef ribs. When I saw that, I trimmed and rubbed a brisket and had it on my pit in no time. I ran my Jambo pit hotter than hell to try and keep up with Mueller's briskets since he obviously gotten a jump. He had told us the day before "no need to show early!" Lewis fired his pit a few hours later to cook a suckling pig after he completed final preparations.
So, while the meats cooked, everyone sat around the pits smelling the sweet burning post oak, throwing back a few beers and talking some serious BBQ. Mueller's wife Debi, daughter Erika, sister LeAnn, good friend Ali Form (cuts the meats at JMueller) and Wes were all there. Several other Mueller friends stopped by later as well.
The first round of meats came off Mueller's pit. We all devoured his handmade beef sausage - best sausage I've ever had. We all ate lots of it with cheddar cheese and Mueller's spicy hot sauce on fresh saltine crackers. It was damned good! Then Mueller pulled a few racks of his beef ribs off his pit. These were to die for. There is nothing better than eating properly prepped and cooked smoked meats straight off the pit. A while later, Mueller pulled a couple of briskets, which also rocked.
After a few more hours and a few more beers, Lewis pulled off the suckling pig. It stole the show. Lewis had stuffed it with herbs, seasonings, pounds of sausage and pork tenderloin and other secret stuff. Everyone at the cook off loved it. It was by far the best anyone there had ever had. And coming from the Muellers, that's very high praise.
Then I pulled the brisket off my pit and let it rest a while. Mueller pitched it on his block and cut it for us. They all told me it was excellent, which was sweet music to my ears coming from Lewis, the Muellers and their close friends.
Later, LeAnn Mueller, well known photographer and the sister of John, mentioned that John Lewis reminded her of her father, Bobby. John Mueller readily agreed. This is absolutely the highest complement any pitmaster could receive. Lewis just smiled, blushed a little and changed the subject.
|John Lewis, left, and John Mueller pose for a portrait.|
Photos ©Marshall Cooper/Texas BBQ Posse